I know the snow is still falling in many parts of the U.S. and the ground is still frozen as well, but simply put, this is the time to get started planting!
First Things FirstOf course the first thing to do is to get a plan together. Specifics of the plan need to meet your needs and wants, but it also needs to meet the requirements of your area and soils. The needs of the specific seeds you want to grow also need to be considered. It should also be noted that some seeds like zinnias are not cold hardy and cannot survive a freeze, so you need to make sure you know which seeds are adapted to the area.
Find Out What Preparation, If Any, Your Seeds NeedWhile many assume that all seeds are ready to plant when they are bought, you need to account for the possibility that some seeds may need to be cold stratified, scarified, or have other treatments to successfully sprout in a timely manner. For example, many native perennial wildflower species require a period of moist, cold conditions to soften their hard seed coats. In nature this happens naturally over the winter, but there are also artificial techniques for achieving this. Here at Nature’s Seed we are more than willing to give you guidance on these techniques. You may also want to do some research on your own to familiarize yourself with how to do it properly.
Consider & Anticipate Soil ConditionsThe next thing you have to look at is when the ground will be ready. This ties in with knowing what the best conditions are for planting your seeds. Some seeds germinate best when they have access to light; others do best when they are given some dark under a layer of soil. Many of the light-needing seeds can be spread over the snow even this time of year. But if you are going to plant flowers that need dark and shelter you should wait until the ground is workable. Once the dark-loving seeds are in place you can sow the light-loving ones on top. Now I use the term “workable”, and that can be a tricky one. While it should be a no brainer that the soil needs to be thawed out, it also needs to be dry enough to not be damaged. On the other hand, it needs to be damp enough not to break your tools. Fortunately, if you are not tilling or otherwise turning the soil, you have broad safety margins for what won’t damage the soil. The standard then becomes sloshiness. If the soil is muddy and sloshy wait, if it is not, go ahead and plant.
Watch Your Planting DepthOn average, dark-loving seeds need to be planted in soil three times as deep as the diameter of the seed. This may be different for some specialty seeds, so check with your supplier. With smaller seeds common with wildflowers and grasses, it is sufficient to scratch the ground deeply with a rake, scatter the seeds over the top, then use the flat back of the rake to recover the scratches.
That is the down and dirty of planting ornamental areas with seeds. Vegetable gardens may need a bit more of a plan regarding spacing and thinning, but for the seeded flower garden much of it is going to come with the expectation that the strong will survive. Plan, prep, plant, and be happy!